About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Friday, March 30, 2007

9/11: This Generation's Waterloo*

Photo by Thomas E. Franklin, The Bergen Record, Passaic, NJ

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat September 8, 2006

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey
Written content only, except for song lyrics

“Have you forgotten
How it felt that day
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away?

“Have you forgotten
When those towers fell
We had neighbors still inside
Goin’ through a living hell?”


Sept. 11, 2001.

No one needs to explain the date or how our lives were changed on that late-summer morning. On this, the fifth anniversary of the most devastating attacks on American soil, a tragedy seared into our minds by the clarity and immediacy of television, the memories should still burn bright. There were comparisons to another day of infamy, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941. But beyond the most obvious parallel, the two events have very little in common.

The immediate aftermath of both attacks left a shocked and angry nation eager for retaliation. In the case of World War II, that passion sustained Americans through 41/2 years of combat. Despite the early setbacks and the mounting casualties, Americans remained resolute, unwilling to accept any result short of victory. As evidence, I cite the public and political outcry that resulted in 1945 when President Harry Truman indicated in one of his communiqu├ęs to Japan that the Allies would not insist on deposing the emperor, long the symbol of the Asian nation’s aggression, as a condition of Japan’s surrender. Through their protestations, the American people made it clear that not only did they want Japan defeated, but they wanted its military-run government dismantled. This stalwart stance was rewarded. The emperor, seeing no hope of a negotiated settlement in the united will of the American people and the Allies, ordered the Japanese Imperial Government to accept the Allies’ terms.

But 60 years later, the change is starkly dramatic.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Troops Outrank Career for this Aussie Singer*

(Unattributed photo)
*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat 12/3/2006

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey
Written content only

As we go through our lives, we hear a lot of songs. But every once in a while, we happen across one that strikes a chord deep inside. That happened last week when I heard for the first time an Australian country singer named Beccy Cole.

She apparently is popular in the land of Oz, or was until last year when she made a Christmas visit to Aussie troops stationed in Iraq. Some of her fans were outraged by this act, equating the visit as an endorsement of the war itself.There were even a couple of public events where her CDs and posters were burned.

One can imagine, knowing the fragile egos and insecurities of most performers, what her response could have been, ranging from public anger to abject apology – anything but firmly standing her ground.That certainly is what we’ve come to expect from her American counterparts.

But instead of a public rant, Cole’s response was measured, mature and adult. She wrote a song called “Poster Girl.” Its heartfelt lyrics express a certain sadness about the divide between her and some of her fans. But they also firmly state her belief that regardless of a person’s stance on war, supporting the troops is the right thing to do.

Cole would much rather be a poster girl for troops fighting for freedom than for the self-indulgent and self-absorbed back home.

It Will Always Be a Field of Dreams*

Camden Yards

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, April 3, 2008
*Ada, OK Evening News, April 4, 2008
as "Signs of new life, and baseball, spring forth"

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

Green grass; blue sky; soft breezes. The sunshine caresses the shoulders with gentle, welcome warmth. All around us, life is springing forth. The tree branches, once so stark in their winter outlines now seem a bit fuzzy with the buds of future leaves, dappling the sunlight as their shadows dance with the winds. The grass loses its monochromatic dullness to the richly verdant green of new growth.

In our homes, the windows, for so long locked tight against winter’s relentless cold, are joyfully thrown open, the soft breezes dispelling the months of mustiness and gloom. It’s time to be outside; the spirit awakens; smiles come easily.

It is the season in which we are drawn to lovely green diamond-shaped fields. There, we breathe deep and smell the familiar earthy aromas of dirt, leather, and chalk.

Winter is over; spring is here. Baseball is back.

To the purblind and the visionless, it is only a game. But, for the rest of us, it goes much deeper.

Baseball is a game meant to be played under clear skies and sunshine. It is spring and summer, freed from the clock-driven tension of the other sports. And although there are moments of excitement, most of the time the mood is easy, even pastoral. As one wag described it, “6 minutes of excitement squeezed into two-and-a-half hours.”

There is a timeless element to this game. Each day is longer and warmer. The long season renders yesterday’s loss a forgotten memory replaced by the eternal hope of tomorrow. It is of the moment, yet firmly linked to a nostalgic past and an unquenchable hope for the future.

The Ballpark is a sanctuary, one of those increasingly rare places where we’re shielded from the grinding complexities of the world. We can lose ourselves in the sun, the sky, and the game. No one’s said it better than James Earl Jones in the iconic movie “Field of Dreams::”

Tornados and You

Picture from NOAA

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey
Written content only

Information for this article was taken primarily from “The Tornado” by Research Meteorologist Thomas P. Grazulis, who is the director of The Tornado Project, a private research and archive organization. Additional data was taken from the websites for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The National Severe Storms Laboratory, and the National Weather Service.

Tornados are nature’s most violent windstorms. Born of powerful thunderstorms called supercells, their powerful winds and unpredictable nature pose a very real threat to life and property. According to the National Weather Service, the U.S. gets more tornados than any other country, around 1,200 per year. And while most seem to occur in Florida and the swath of Midwestern states known as ‘Tornado Alley,” all 50 states have experienced these storms. Anywhere supercell thunderstorms can form, the threat for tornados exists.

Hurricanes, in comparison, are enormous storms, covering thousands of square miles. But even the winds of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded, Camille in 1969 and Allen in 1980, both 190 mph, were equal only to a medium-sized tornado.

The question of how and why tornadoes occur is still being investigated. Scientists know there are conditions within supercell storms common to tornado formation, but as to exactly what the actual trigger mechanism is, no one yet knows. Some supercells might spawn several tornados, while others with measurably identical parameters won't even form a single wall cloud.

Identifying and understanding that trigger mechanism also holds the key to determining how long a particular tornado might stay on the ground. Some have only touched down for a few minutes, while others might roar across the landscape for an hour or more. The infamous Tri-State Tornado of 1925 was reportedly on the ground for an incredible 219 miles across parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, leaving in its wake F-5 level damage and 619 dead. In recent years, meteorologists have begun to doubt that this was actually one tornado. In 1998, storm spotters recorded on video one instance where, as one tornado dissipated, another formed and strengthened within the same wall cloud. Although there were two separate twisters, the resulting damage path was uninterrupted. Some researchers suspect that this mechanism was at work in that Tri-State storm.

No one, not even an expert can rate a tornado by looking at it. There's simply too much variability in the twister's appearance to make such an assessment reliable or accurate. Tornados are rated according to the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which gauges storms based on a comprehensive damage assessment done after the tornado has passed. Such damage to a well-constructed frame home can range from shingles and windows for an EF-0 to complete obliteration in an EF-5.

The Town Too Tough to Die*

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat 2/25/2007

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

The sun was sliding towards the horizon, its butter-colored rays beginning to cast long shadows as I motored up the winding road from Sierra Vista. The sunlight, passing through the prism of dust on the horizon, painted the desert in a myriad of beautifully subtle hues. Cresting the last hill, I entered the legendary town of Tombstone, Arizona.

Tombstone began life as a mining camp in 1879, when early prospectors began mining high-grade silver. In less than two years, the town boomed, bringing in elegant hotels and fancy saloons. Within a few short years, however, the boom went bust. The price of silver fell from $123 to less than $10 per ounce and the mines flooded when the aquifer was breached at 560 feet. The mines could no longer turn a profit, so investors pulled out, businesses failed, and people left, leaving behind a dying community. But the Tombstoners who stayed were made of stronger stuff. The “Town Too Tough to Die” survives today on the strength of an epic tale.

In October 1881, a political crisis in Tombstone climaxed when the leaders of two factions faced each other across the narrow confines of a small empty lot called the OK Corral. On one side were the Clantons and the McLaureys, fronting The Cowboys, a loose band of rustlers and robbers who controlled the county government and the courts. On the other side were three lawmen named Earp and a tubercular dentist named Holliday, professional gamblers all, backed by the town’s business interests. In a flurry of gunshots over a few seconds of time, men died and legends were born, searing the name of Tombstone into the annals of history.